Good morning,

Here’s a our morning briefing for today.

The Maltese newspapers dedicate ample coverage to the Aquarius saga and Malta’s position, which you can read further down. In other stories we see that the Commission for the Administration of Justice has confirmed that there is nothing to investigate with regards to Magistrate Joe Mifsud, who was the victim of false claims made by a man he had previously convicted (The Malta Independent).

We also read that Malta emerges as world’s cryptocurrency hub despite EU’s TAX3 investigation. There are various details about changes in EU law and also the taxation aspect. The Business Weekly also reports that according to the plans revealed last week, Malta would receive roughly €673 million in cohesion funds between 2021 to 2027, a 24% cut on the funding for the previous financial term.

Police are holding two Libyans and a Maltese man who were arrested in a coordinated effort that involved 1.5 kilos of cocaine and €64,000 in cash. The three arrested men are expected to be arraigned in Court to be accused of drugs trafficking. (TVM). 

Maltatoday’s portal refers to a court case where the court has acquitted eight people of drug smuggling, in a case dating back 17 years, laying the blame squarely at the feet of governments who refused to introduce the right to a lawyer during interrogation.

We find also reports about the World Cup, and how differently specific pockets are going to embrace it. (Times and Independent)

Aquarius

A 253-feet long, 2,000-ton boat makes for an ungainly political football, especially when it is carrying some 629 desperate migrants and is staffed by a crew of angry humanitarian workers.

But since Saturday, when the MV Aquarius, a search-and-rescue vessel operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and European NGO SOS Méditerranée, came to the aid of several dinghy-loads of imperiled migrants who had set off from the Libyan coast for Europe, the boat has become a symbol of the continent’s most intractable crisis.

The crisis has developed in further crisis which is straining the diplomatic relations between Italy, France and Malta.

EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker told Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that according to the Commission’s appraisal, Malta behaved according to international rules in the Aquarius case as Malta and Italy continue to be at odds since  two days ago, when 629 migrants on the Aquarius rescue ship, were stuck in international waters off the coast of Italy and Malta, both of which denied it entry.

The Maltese government described a statement by Italian Infrastructure Minister Danilo Toninelli, who hails from the Movimento Cinque Stelle as ‘a baseless and frivolous attempt to try to impinge on the sovereignty of a neighbouring country.

The diplomatic standoff between Italy and France escalated on Wednesday as the two countries traded insults over migration policies. A day after French President Emmanuel Macron said Rome had acted with “cynicism and irresponsibility” by closing its ports to a migrant ship, Italy’s economy minister canceled a Paris meeting with his counterpart, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte weighed postponing a meeting with Macron scheduled for Friday.

In the meantime, Coast Guard ship Diciotti, arrived in the port of Catania, with 932 migrants on board. They were rescued during 7 rescue operations off Libya.

Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn has suffered his biggest Brexit rebellion in the Commons as nearly 90 backbenchers defied his orders and six junior frontbenchers resigned from their roles.

Immigration – Europe

Germany should ally itself with Austria and Italy on migration and security policies, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Wednesday, a shift that could prove uncomfortable for Chancellor Angela Merkel. Standing alongside Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Seehofer said he had spoken to the Italian interior minister, “and it was his wish that Rome, Vienna and Berlin should work together at the interior minister level in the areas of security, fighting terrorism and the core issue of immigration.”

Spain

Spain’s new Socialist government faces its first ethical dilemma as whether Nadia Calviño, the economy and enterprise minister, is to resign from her job as a top European Union official in Brussels. Calviño, who until June 6 was director general of the European Commission’s budget department, has not formally quit the EU institution

A court in Palma de Mallorca has given Iñaki Urdangarin, brother-in-law to King Felipe VI of Spain, five days to report to the penitentiary of his choice to serve out a five-year, 10-month sentence in connection with the Nóos graft case.

Other

Prosecutors in Germany have imposed a €1 billion fine on Volkswagen over the company’s diesel scandal. The €1 billion ($1.2 billion) penalty was announced Wednesday by public prosecutors and the company, which said it was hoping to turn a page on emissions cheating.

Two suicide bombers on Tuesday hit forces loyal to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, who is leading an assault on the eastern city of Derna, a spokesman for his forces said. The explosions were heard across the city as the bombers hit the southern Chiha district, spokesman Khalifa al-Abidi said.

The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) has announced that, together with the National Oil Corporation (NOC), it has extended the previous agreement with MEDCO Energy for the exploration of plot 47.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared open the $8bn and 1,850-km Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) that connects with an extension of the 700-km South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP) to bring supplies of gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia.

The UN warned of devastating consequences for 250,000 Hudaida residents as coalition targets Houthi rebels in port city. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have launched an assault on Yemen’s port city of Hudaida, in the biggest battle of a three-year war between a Saudi-backed coalition and Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels

The Jordanian king and government came under further pressure on Tuesday as a prominent opposition politician said the country’s role in the region had been downgraded by Israel and the US from the rank of brigadier general to lieutenant.

Macedonia’s president said on Wednesday he would not sign a landmark deal reached with Greece on changing his country’s name, dashing hopes of a swift end to a diplomatic dispute that has blocked its bid to join the European Union and Nato.

In Greece, the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, faced a barrage of criticism and the prospect of a no-confidence vote against his government as he and Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev announced the accord late on Tuesday.

NHS is “picking up the pieces” of an epidemic of mental illness among children, fuelled by social media, the head of the service has warned. Simon Stevens urged companies like Google and Facebook to take more responsibility for the pressures they place on children.

World Cup

Fernando Hierro will take charge of the Spanish national team for the World Cup in Russia, replacing Julen Lopetegui. Following the announcement on Tuesday that Lopetegui would be taking over at Real Madrid, the Spanish FA moved swiftly to release him from his duties as their head coach.

Iran’s national team was always going to face a difficult challenge in trying to compete with more established nations at the World Cup, but suddenly there is a new obstacle for its players: what to put on their feet.

The 2026 World Cup will be held in USA, Canada and Mexico, following Tuesday’s vote at the Fifa Congress in Moscow. The United States, Canada and Mexico’s combined bid was heavy favourite to host the 48-team tournament in eight years’ time and they received 134 of the 200 votes cast compared to 65 for the north African country. Morocco 65 Joint bid 134 votes.